The Art of Debate, Friendship, and Facebook

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debateI’ve recently logged on to Facebook and saw a ‘friend’ (Facebook friend) post…”If you believe…such and such…then we aren’t friends.” Well, that made me think. Even if I agree with your statement that ‘such and such’ is terrible and not my view, I respect that others may have a different point of view.

So inherently, I wouldn’t say I like these statements as it takes debate out of the equations, and if you feel that way, all your friends would simply walk around agreeing with you.

Do you really want to listen to no one else with a different point of view?

I can’t remember another time in my life when people all around me had greater debate and disagreements, myself included. Scrolling through Facebook posts, many of my friends and I are not on the same page! Even whether or not to breastfeed our infants ump-teen years ago wasn’t debated as much as today’s issues in politics, women’s rights, race, social justice, and many others.

We feel so passionately about what is important to us, that even as I look back at debates concerning our own young children, and what felt like crucial issues in their rearing, it pales in comparison to what I see with my friends and others all around me today. 

I am teaching my kids that the art of respecting one another while disagreeing is so important. The difference between the ‘art of war’ and the ‘war of words’ is something I take very seriously. As a mother of teens, trust me, they have their own opinions, and there is nothing I can do to sway them, other than perhaps present facts they may not have been considered.

So in comes the art of debate! But, what is important to me is that they argue passionately but never forget the respect that is necessary to have educated and intelligent discussion. Intelligence is equal parts what you know and how you choose to interact with others.

Go ahead, be passionate and make your voice heard, but when it gets personal or even worse, name-calling begins, it needs to end. Take a breath, consider the other person’s right to see things their way, and walk away knowing that you don’t have to change anyone’s mind.

Drawing blood with words and flinging insults is not a successful debate. If you’ve had a good discussion and can get up from the table with respect for each other’s opinions, that is the magic of disagreement.

I have plenty of friends and family, who can make great arguments and are passionate about their views, and some are better at arguing them than others (myself included). There have been moments when I have gotten up from the table, not very proud of myself for letting the issue and the conversation get the best of me. Perhaps that is why those types of Facebook posts bother me so much. I’ve tried to learn and do better. I try to agree to disagree. I still have a way to go, but I am trying to be conscious of it.

Perhaps this is something schools and parents can focus on teaching. How do we consider different viewpoints without saying, “If you disagree, you must not get it,” or “If you don’t see my point, it is because you aren’t smart enough or you don’t know enough.”

In the end, let us consider what matters most, do we want only to hear our own opinions and voices back at us, or can we listen and understand each other? This crucial skill will last us a lifetime in our personal and professional lives.

Listen from your heart, understand differences with your brain, and respect them as much as similarities.

What else can we ask for?

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Alla lives in Ardsley with her husband, two teenage girls and fluffy Havanese dog named Oliver. She is a camp director in Dobbs Ferry for the last 11 years which is her second career. Prior to this career change, she was in finance for over 18 years. Alla enjoys cooking, travel, yoga, good wine and reality TV. Her motto is 'I can learn to do anything and laugh at myself trying.' Learning to live with teenagers and sending them off to college may be the biggest learning curve yet!